Did you know that HIV can not only be prevented before exposure, but after it as well? PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, and PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, are medications designed to stop the spread of HIV. PrEP and PEP are crucial drugs for those participating in activities that could lead to HIV exposure.
It's important to know how HIV is transmitted and who is at a greater risk of contracting it before you start to take PrEP or PEP. HIV is transmitted by the bodily fluids of someone who has detectable HIV. These fluids include, blood, semen and pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breastmilk. Transmission occurs when one of these fluids gets into the bloodstream of an HIV-negative person through a mucous membrane, which can be found in the rectum, vagina, tip of the penis or mouth. It can also happen through open cuts or sores, or by direct injection.
While everyone can get HIV, there are some people who are at a greater risk of contracting it. Gay and bisexual men are are the population most affected by HIV in the United States. Drug users are also at a higher risk for getting HIV as they often share needles. HIV can be transmitted even if a condom is worn, which is why it's so important that you're prepared if you know you could be exposed to HIV.
PrEP is a daily medication that you take before being exposed to HIV. It should be taken by people who have a partner who is HIV positive. To be eligible for PrEP, you must be negative for HIV and not have knowingly come in contact with HIV.
PEP is a medication given to people who believe they have been exposed to HIV. You need to begin the medication within 72 hours of possible exposure. PEP is taken daily for 28 days once you start it. PEP is very effective when taken correctly.
If you are interested in getting started on PrEP or PEP, or have questions regarding HIV, schedule an appointment with our HIV Specialist Ofiong Okon.